An Epidemic of Distrust in American Tap Water


Covid-19 is not the only public health crisis in the United States. A large number of Americans also don't trust their tap water. Some have good reason, others do not.

A study published in 2021 found that nearly 60 million people in the U.S. do not drink their tap water as of 2017- 2018, with these numbers higher among Black and Hispanic households, particularly after the Flint lead crisis.

Environmental injustice plays a significant role in the disparities that exist, according to the study, deepening health impacts as individuals replace water with sugary beverages. The researchers suggest that this issue can be tackled on an individual and systemic level, and that both are necessary and effective.

Greater investment in water infrastructure, especially in historically disadvantaged communities, can help prevent frequent failures in the water system, the study concludes. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is set to fund led service line replacement, address contaminants like PFAS, and specifically aid small water systems. 

The water industry also needs to build back trust in the tap, the researchers say. Customers usually have more faith in their water when their water utility communicates with them often, and especially during a crisis. The community drinking water advisory guidance document found on our document database offers answers to many commonly asked questions during a drinking water advisory.

Cities like Philadelphia are trying to take a stand against this crisis in innovative ways by helping their communities regain trust in their tap water. Making sure water quality reports are accessible can help customers feel empowered to understand how they receive safe water and when action is necessary.

The research also made sure to take into account the roughly 2 million Americans who don't have access to safe drinking water

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